Posted by: tuulenhaiven | May 27, 2009

Stephane Heuet takes on Proust

I had the extreme good fortune the other day of being allowed to borrow books from a very fastidious co-worker. He has a large collection of books, with duplicates of many because he needs a lovely clean copy and one to mark up. We’ve had many discussions about our stances in regards to marking books, caring for books, living with books. Is pencil okay but pen not acceptable when it comes to marking, perhaps highlighters are better, dog-earing corners is the abomination above all, leaving books lying around open is a punishable act, etc. I know at this point to make sure my hands are clean when he hands me one of his favorite magazines to peruse, and if he leaves a book in the ticket booth at Reel Pizza Cinerama I wait until he’s around to ask to look at it.

CombraySuch finickiness has paid off! “I’ve got something special for you today,” he said. “Because you’re so good with books, and because you let me borrow Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (hahaha) “I’ve brought the Proust comic books for you.” I was quite beside myself with pride and excitement ! 🙂

If you are looking for a quick brush-up on Proust, or want to test the waters before diving in, Stephane Heuet’s adaptation of In Remembrance of Things Past (the older translation of the title In Search of Lost Time) is the way to go. Heuet has been working on the project since 1998, and so far he has produced four volumes.

It was my great pleasure to read the first three – Combray, Within a Budding Grove Part 1, and Within a Budding Grove Part 2. I meant to save and relish them, but I am incapable of reading the comic book, or graphic novel form slowly. I had the books back to my co-worker by the following evening, much to his surprise. He was pretty impressed, and gratified I think that they could return so quickly to his protection!

The books are wonderful. The illustrations are detailed but the characters are drawn simply. Stylistically, I was strongly reminded of The Adventures of Tintin, the comic series created by Belgian artist Hergé, the pen name of Georges Remi (1907–1983). A lot of the text is taken straight out of Proust’s original, with some conversations improvised.

Within a Budding GroveWhat I loved was how Heuet whittled down the story, including all of my favorite parts but skimming over those 5 page long descriptions of a drawing room, etc. All the episodes and even the passing comments that I made notes on or remember especially appeared in Heuet’s version, so the reading experience was very fulfilling.

The amusing elements of the story seemed to be a little more apparent in this form, which I found delightful. The original often made me laugh, but episodes such as the bizarre visit of Monsieur de Charlus to Marcel’s bedroom, and their conversation on the beach the following day, was enhanced greatly by frames of Marcel’s perplexed face (complete with floating exclamation point).

The newest volume – Swann in Love – came out in 2007 and my friend doesn’t own it so I’ll have to track it down myself. These books definitely need to be added to my bookshelf, and if anyone else is looking for a painless way to read Proust, or would like a refreshingly quick reread, Heuet’s adaptation is spot on.

It took Marcel Proust 14 years to write In Search of Lost Time. It looks like Heuet may beat that record, as he is on his 11th year with the project. I very much hope he is still going strong, as I will definitely be keeping my eye out for new volumes. At least I probably have enough time to get through a couple more volumes of the original…!


Responses

  1. Sarah, this is an awesome post! Wouldn’t it be great if you could get comic books of all your favorite “serious” reads? Too funny!

  2. […] har letat efter en recension av någon som läst orginalet – inte lätt men här är en som rosar  och en som sågar. […]

  3. Good evening,
    I read what you wrote about my little (but rather long, yes !) work. I’m afraid my english is awfull, I beg you pardon. Thank you very much, I’m honored by what you told. Yes, I continue this curious job ; in four month I guess I shall finish the sixth opus “Noms de pays : le nom, the last part of “Swann’s side. Its is not a very well known part but, realy, for me it’s delightful to adapt and draw this part. But I’m afraid that I was told that the US publisher will no more publish my comic strips, No “Swann’s love” part one, no “Swann’s love” part two, because, I think, in US these comic books have not success ; so if, even in comic strips, reading Proust is sometimes difficult, I imagine that it will be terrible because you’ll have now to read the french versus !
    Stephane Heuet

    • Although it is disappointing to learn that the US publisher won’t continue to publish your lovely work, this is another extremely good incentive for me to learn to speak/read French! And your pictures are so good that I doubt I would need to rely on the words to get the gist of the story. I really must see if I can track down the rest of your work. I am so pleased to learn that you are still producing it!


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